Deirdre Kelly

The Stars Above

Perseid Meteor Shower

A collective wail of oohs and ahhs erupted behind my back as I stood on a hill in the dark last Thursday night near my country property in Thornbury, Ontario. A star had just streaked by, and everyone around me was terribly excited. No, it wasn’t Angelina Jolie in the buff. And actually, even if it had been, I doubt this crowd would have cared.

With a few exceptions (among them me and others from the community who had gathered that night for a little star gazing courtesy the L.E. Shore Memorial Library in the Town of Blue Mountains) the squealers were all members of the Royal Astrological Society of Canada. They were on a hill in the dark last Thursday night to ogle instead the stars that twinkle far above our heads, often beyond our ken.

These amateur astronomers had with them huge honking telescopes with which to gaze at the real stars that were their heart’s desire. Some had them trained early in the evening on Venus, rising coyly in the dusky sky to show off her sparkling raiment made of star fire.

As the sky darkened, other pinpoints of light succeeded in elbowing Venus aside for our attention.

One hoodie-wearing RASC member whom I could still make out in the thickening darkness excitedly told me that one that was then grabbing his attention was a double star. I saw it with the naked eye as a single. He asked me if I wanted to look at it through his lens. I did. And there it was. The twin star known as Albireo.

But that wasn’t what all the fuss was about.

The bigger star show was yet to come, and it belonged to the Perseid meteor shower said that night to rain a shower of starlight onto mortal heads. A mini lecture held back at the library in advance of the excursion emphasized that Perseid was a rare occurrence, happening every 132 years or so. We were all primed to face the explosion head-on. But first we had to wait until the night sky took on the appearance of black velvet in order to see it. There were Muskoka chairs set out on the lawn near the Observatory to make the waiting more comfortable. I instead took my position up against my parked van, preferring to commune with the stars in private.  I gazed upwards in the direction of the Milky Way and watched and waited, waited and watched, cicada singing around me like a Greek chorus.

The experience felt not unlike whale watching, which I had done summers before with my husband in Quebec. I knew nature’s behemoths were out there, but didn’t know when they would chance to slice through the darkness to reveal their glory.

I heard a few more oohs and ahhs ahead of me, proof that the meteors were making their brilliant appearance, just not in the patch of sky I was watching. I wondered if I’d go home disappointed.

But suddenly, without warning, a meteor exploded before my eyes, leaving a trail of stardust in its wake. Another soon followed, and then another. It was like watching a fireworks display, except for one thing. Save for the people exclaiming around me, all this cosmic dynamiting was taking place in strictest silence. The heavens were mute, speaking only through the visual language of stars. The meteors, as mighty and fiery as they were, seemed to pounce cat-like onto the night sky,  leaving behind scratches of light that seared onto my retina.

One of the leader astronomers in our midst said that some of the starlight were watching was millions of years old, having traveled light years to arrive in our here and now on the night of August 12, 2010.

I found much philosophy in that comment.

This starlight seemed to be happening in the present, but it was really a phenomenon from the past.

It made me think that reality is more illusory than I had imagined.

In my mind, I flashed back to the University of Toronto’s Trinity College where I was enrolled in Philosophy 101. This is where I first read Plato and his argument about the forms. If memory serves me right, Plato said that  most of us live in caves of our own ignorance, mistaking an appearance of a thing for the thing itself. I had just thought as much about these stars above my head. I looked upon them as present, but they were really past. I  felt deeply humbled.

And in that state of grace, as it were, I suddenly realized something: that humanity is itself something celestial, being also straddled between the two worlds of being and becoming.

I had, you could say, seen the light.

My Summer Vacation

Just back from a week of family camp in the Canadian woods with the kids only to discover that I have poison ivy.  As a kid myself, I used to run barefoot through the forests with never a care. I was oblivious to nature as a potentially dangerous place. Perhaps it was this underlying naivete that made me such an eager student of the Romantics, with Keats as my hero.  Yes, he did once write of feeling out of sorts after a day communing with nature, “as if of hemlock I had drunk….”  I have been thinking of that line from Ode to a Nightingale while trying not to scratch my burning itch.  My son has it worse than I — from his thigh to his underarm and everywhere in between, poor boy.  But I’m not suppposed to tell anyone. Calamine lotion is us!  Sitting again at my desk in the city, ulcerating and sore, I reflect on the past week as an idyll, nonetheless. I swam in Lake Couchiching, I learned how to weather forecast by reading the clouds, and one morning, without first having had my cup of coffee, I went bird-watching with Brad, who sat at the table next to mine in the communal dining room  made of logs. Earlier in the week, Brad with his bincoculars showed me something rare — a green heron. Its legs shone emerald against the lemonade leaves of the willow tree in which it lay hidden, a jewel in the rough.  It  crouched low,  its head a shock of olive feathers. It looked like a kiwi. I couldn’t get close. I was in a canoe with my new freind Curtis. But I marveled at its strangeness. And at how I had never seen such a creature before, despite living all my life side-by-side with nature. This bird opened my eyes, so to speak, becoming my own nightingale of enlightened inspiration. Worth getting poison ivy for.

Canada Day

Fireworks over Parliament Hill I took the kids to Ottawa for Canada Day last week where we were among the estimated 100,000 squeezed onto Parliament Hill for the biggest July 1 party that I’ve ever attended. I had no idea that Canada Day was so huge  at the capital, and such fun! In Toronto, I typically spend the holiday doing five loads of laundry. In Ottawa the day is meant for celebrating and being out of doors. Sparks Street, the pedestrian mall, was in prep mode for almost a week in advance. The hotels were full. As soon as we arrived the day before people were asking us where were going to watch the fireworks, few resisting to share their tips for optimum viewing. In the few days I was there I met Canadians from across the country who had gathered to celebrate our nation’s birthday. That morning, the streets were full of people wearing red and white and waving Canadian flags. We came across the Mounties rehearsing in a park on the morning of the festivities, their horses uniformly black and elegant. They led the Queen in her open carriage up Elgin Street, adding the the day’s pomp and circumstance. The stage show included Marjo from Quebec and the Bare Naked Ladies from Ontario. We came back at night ignoring the self-anointed experts who said to go to Major Hill’s Park to see the fireworks. Parliament Hill was where the action was, and we didn’t want to miss a thing.  As the explosion of colour burst overhead, the crowd broke out into an impromptu chorus of O Canada. The children and I joined in, our voices rising to the heavens sparkling diamond-like before us.

My Life in Fashion


In my book, Paris Times Eight, I have a chapter where I dissect the Paris fashion shows from the perspective of one assigned to cover them for the national newspaper of Canada. Not what you’d call a pretty story. In “Fashionista,” I write about being dismissed by the snooty PRs simply because I am Canadian. “But le Canada is not exactement a fashion country, non?,” I recall one of them saying to me when I asked why, after being accredited to cover their fashion week, I wasn’t being allowed an invitation to designers’ shows.  It was, I found out, a rhetorical question, because she hung up on me when I feebly tried to answer. Paris is often a difficult city for me to maneuvre as that chapter in particular illustrates. The French have never readily accepted me. So it came as a big surprise, after I wrote a book documenting my trails and tribulations (and occasional triumphs) in Paris, that the French suddenly turned around to embrace me with open arms. An example of this about-face came on the eve of the book’s Canadian publication last fall.  Atout France, name of the French tourist board, graciously invited me to emcee their VIP screening of Coco Avant Chanel in Toronto after learning that my new book was set in Paris. For the event, they insisted in dressing me head-to-toe in Chanel (Karl Lagerfeld’s assistant actually flew in from Paris to assist with my fitting) and giving me a full-blown French  maquillage, including red lips and the kohl-eye look I mention with envy in my book. To me the artfully made up eyes of the Parisian woman symbolize what Paris represents to me:  a magificent but elusive ideal rooted in beauty, art and savoir-faire. To have those eyes, after all my years of travelling to Paris trying to emulate those eyes (and never with success), re-created on me in my own backyard, was definitely ironic, but a thrill neverthless. The above images are of me with my book and my husband, cultural anthropologist Victor Barac, and another of me in the DRESS. And No, I didn’t get to keep it. Enjoy.

Deirdre

On the Road With My Book

Deirdre at Rizzoli bookstore in New York with Paris Times Eight

Deirdre Kelly in New York City

It’s my first time!!!!

When was the last time I said that?

Never mind.

I am an old dog trying here to learn the new trick of writing a blog. Forgive me.

Seeing that these things are a  license to talk all about ONESELF let me begin by, um, talking about ME.

This morning, I had the wonderful opportunity of speaking with Catherine Kustanczy, Toronto indie arts journalist extraordinaire, as part of Take 5, the morning show on CIUT-FM at the University of Toronto. My beloved alma mater!!

The last time I saw CIUT it was atop the rickety old white building on St. George Street where I cut my teeth as a journo at the student newspaper, The Varsity. I used to creep up the back stairs to request rockin’ tunes by The Stranglers by which I would tap-tap-tap (one finger typing continues to be a secret talent of mine) my precious dance reviews while still an undergrad.

That building was recently demolished to make way for the ever-expanding Rotman School of Business ( I think that’s a metaphor for how universities are changing — career schools bulldozing centres where boho students used to come for educations of a different sort) and the new digs at Hart House are certainly a cut above.

The studio overlooks the verdant U of T campus, and birds chirp outside the window.  And the walls are clean, as is the floor. That’s progress for you.

Anyway, Ms. Kustanczy was most attentive in interviewing me for her show … she loved my book so of course I loved her! We got on like a house on fire. I think you can hear the interview online at www.ciut.fm/index.php/2010/05/27/paris-times-eight-author/

Speaking of me … on Wednesday I was in Oakville as the lucky guest of honour at book club that chose Paris Times Eight as its book of the month.  Hostess France Fournier of Whole Foods Oakville held the event in the stylish Oliver & Bonacini restaurant at Oakville Place. The fabulous Paris-inspired menu included organic roasted chicken with fine French beans and a delicious crab and cucumber salad with sorel vichyssoise . Kir royales at the start of the meal set the pace for an evening that explored Paris, the trails of motherhood, not to mention the tensions of the mother-daughter relationship, the leitmotif of my book.

Last month, I had the great honour of being hosted by Rizzoli bookstore in New York City (that’s me in front of the bookstore, above).

I stayed at the hip SoHo apartment belonging to Natasha Koifman, my happening Toronto PR girlfriend here in Toronto (check out her company, NKPR) and took the subway uptown to 57th Street, photographing my walk to the bookstore so as always to remember my very own New York Minute.

I’ll stop here.

Let me know if I bored you to death or if you’d like more.  As I said, It’s my first time ….

Deirdre xox

Welcome

Welcome to my website. I’m delighted you could visit. On my site you’ll find all kinds of information about who I am and what I do.  Of note, you’ll find information about my books, Ballerina: Sex, Scandal and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection, and my critically acclaimed memoir, Paris Times Eight: Finding Myself in the City of Dreams. Elsewhere, look for samples of my published writing in The Globe and Mail newspaper where I am a staff writer and critic writing on dance, fashion, interior design and lifestyle trends. My arts reviews can also be found on the independent online arts publication, criticsatlarge.ca. My blog is a mix of journalism, personal opinion and updates on my publishing career. I hope you enjoy what you read. For more, go to my Deirdre Kelly Facebook page, follow me on Twitter @deirdre_kelly and on Instagram @kellydeirdre

Thanks!

Deirdre Kelly

Journalist, Critic & Author

Journalist

Globe and Mail

Critic

Fashion, Arts, Dance

Author

Paris Times Eight